SH eSonic 2
"The Shadow pickup system and eSonic2 preamp give players lots of control over their amplified sound, which can minimize headaches in performance situations where players don’t have the benefit of a sound check."
Epiphone Performer ME
Shadow electronics help this cutaway grand concert serve up heaps of tone at a very sensible price.
"Finding a mid-price guitar with a workable, accurate pickup solution can be tricky business. The search gets harder if you’re bent on the multiple-pickup systems that many performing guitarists prefer. And for tone-conscious players who can’t spend whatever it takes to get a natural acoustic sound, the list of viable potions can seem very short indeed. Since the early 1970s, Epiphone has been a top choice for acoustic musicians on a budget. With the inclusion of Shadow’s Nanomag and Nanoflex pickups on the company’s Performer ME flattop, Epiphone now offers an accessibly priced, highly playable flattop that delivers superior amplified tone.
The first thing to grab my eye on he Performer ME is its Transblack finish (it’s also available in Tobacco Burst) which is strikingly offset with abalone trim and rosette. The highly figured, laminated flame maple top, back and sides show through in a charcoal-hued shimmer, and gold Grover tuners are affixed to the elegantly slim headstock that’s an Epiphone trademark. The dot inlays on the rosewood fretboard almost seem too subtle for this guitar at first glance, given its nontraditional finish and flashier touches. But while the Performer ME is a bit flashy, the overall silhouette is still a tasteful fusion of mini-jumbo and grand concert curves. Craftsmanship, meanwhile, was excellent inside and out and free of obvious imperfections.
There is an old saying among guitar players: “If it doesn’t feel right, forget about it.” Fortunately, the ME feels great under hand – particularly the neck, which mates a narrow 1 11/16-inch nut width with a rounded profile and girth that’s well suited to string bending and vibrato. The shallow body (4 3/8 inches at the lower bout) also lends a compact, comfortable feel. Unplugged, the Performer ME is ideal for strumming. An enthusiastic take on the Who’s “Pinball Wizard” demonstrated the ME’s capacity for punch and volume and a midrange-friendly responsiveness. Gentler picking highlighted the brightness of the maple, though this lighter attack also led to less low-end presence.
The real value and versatility of the Performer ME shines through when you use its factory-installed Shadow pickup system, which enables the player to blend between Shadow Nanoflex and NanoMAG pickups via its onboard eSonic2preamp. The NanoMAG is a very slim magnetic pickup that is mounted on the end of the fretboard and has to be considered a contender for the most unobtrusive soundhole pickup available. The Nanoflex undersaddle system senses vibrations from both the saddle and the bottom of the bridge. On the side-mounted eSonic2 preamp (which also features a tuner and phase button) each pickup has a dedicated EQ knob – though it might be more accurately termed a tone control, given that it changes bass and treble parameters in tandem, rather than enabling individual control of high and low frequencies. A slider control enables you to blend as much as you want of each pickup. The Performer ME also has two ¼ -inch jacks, which can be used alone or to direct the output of the individual pickups to separate channels of an amplifier or PA.
I played the Performer ME through a Fishman Loudbox 100, trying different blends of the pickups, from 100 percent Nanomag to 100 percent Nanoflex and numerous settings in between. My favorite sound was a 50/50 blend of the Nanoflex and NanoMAG – a combination that reproduced the Performer ME’s midrangey acoustic sound faithfully and left plenty of wiggle room to add texture with the EQ control. As many performing guitarists know, having as much control as possible over your sound via an onboard setup is a major plus. And on most counts, the Performer ME’s control set gives you ample access to the tone you need. The ability to adjust bass and high-end frequencies individually would be a plus. But on the whole, the Performer ME’s electronics are a fine-sounding and adaptable pickup set.
Epiphone has produced a real workhorse in the Performer ME – a guitar that would be a great fit for a singer-songwriter who works clubs, festivals, and coffee houses or a band member with a heavy acoustic repertoire. The Shadow pickup system and eSonic2 preamp give players lots of control over their amplified sound, which can minimize headaches in performance situations where players don’t have the benefit of a sound check. And when you consider the guitar’s overall comfort and playability, the Performer ME stands out as a great value in the ever more-crowded acoustic-electric market."
Test review by Pete Madsen; published in Acoustic Guitar #10-2008
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